Senior student-athletes gaining and leaving a family

Zachary Araki, A&E Editor

Senior student-athletes prepare to leave their Lion family as they enter their last season.

According to Kyla Williams, a senior forward on the women’s basketball team, her time as a Lady Lion has helped her grow.

“With each year leading up to my senior year, I have learned so much not only about the game as the sport I love but the sport in its entirety as a business and a job,” said Williams. “I’ve learned a lot about myself as well as my teammates, which have taught me to become a better person and leader on and off the court as well as what kind of work ethic and heart it takes to succeed.”

Williams plans to receive a doctorate in physical therapy after graduation. She described her last season as bittersweet.

“I am very excited to see what my teammates and I are going to accomplish simply because the group we have this year is special,” said Williams. “We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, but we also have a group that is willing to pick each other up at any cost as well as hold each other accountable for each wrongdoing.”

Rebecca Skains, a senior infielder on the softball team, transferred from Louisiana State University Eunice to finish her last two years at the university. 

“Entering my last season is very weird,” said Skains. “I don’t think it has sunk in yet that this is my last year to ever play. I have been playing every summer, fall and spring since I was 5 years old, but I am extremely excited for this season and this team. I am ready to go all out with my team and really make a difference for this program.”

Since beginning her collegiate softball career, Skains started to see the game as more of a mental than a physical one. 

“I’ve had to learn as I’ve grown as a player that if you strike out or miss the ball, you have to let it go so it doesn’t effect the rest of your at-bats or defensive plays,” said Skains. “That’s been a huge thing to me is being strong mentally.”

Clarissa Smith, a senior distance runner, on the track and field team plans to take a gap year after graduation before pursuing a doctorate degree in chemistry. Smith described her experience with her team as gaining a family.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Smith. “Starting as a freshman and experiencing the huge difference from high school competition to collegiate level was a little terrifying. Overall, I’m happy with my performance at Southeastern, especially outdoor track in scoring at conference every season in the 3K steeplechase.”

Smith shared how her perspective changed since her freshman year. 

“As a freshman, I was looking for blood and wanted to prove myself worthy of being on the team,” said Smith. “Especially coming from being a top competitor in high school, I figured I could do the same in college. Talk about how wrong I was. Now as a senior with a very talented group of girls as my teammates, I just want to compete well and again show that I belong on this collegiate team.”

Bryce Steckler, a senior outfielder on the baseball team, discussed his collegiate career with the Lions.

“Last year was kind of like my freshman year trying to learn everything our offense does and the style we play not being from around here,” said Steckler. “Definitely different style of baseball, but now and in the fall, where I’m at now, it’s nice to know everything that’s expected and what the goals are for the team, how we play, so I feel way more confident.”

Williams cited her teammates as one of the most enjoyable parts of playing with the Lady Lions.

“There have been days when I have not wanted to be at practice or be around people in general, but the teammates I have and the personalities we carry make it impossible to be in that sort of mood,” said Williams. “I have also enjoyed being a part of a change happening at Southeastern Louisiana with the women’s basketball team.”

Smith discussed the challenge of balancing responsibilities as a student-athlete.

“With going to classes, having practice basically every day, and trying to maintain a job throughout has been tough,” said Smith. “High school was so easy, everyone telling you what to do and when to do it. Being in college, you must have good time management, especially as an athlete.”

Skains plans to attend medical school after graduation. She advised student-athletes “to soak in every moment you get.”

“It flies by,” said Skains. “Everyone always told me that, and I never believed it. Now I do. Also, it would be to remember softball is just a game. Don’t let it overwhelm you and stress you out. Just have fun.”